Within the streets of Johannesburg, in southern Africa, a vast empire lays stretched across the boundaries of space and time. The empire of Khumalo lives on despite its defeat at the hands of Shaka Zulu; it is even rumored that its emperor, Mzilikazi, continues to rule the empire from the heights of the Spirit Tree that towers above the city.
Khumalo differs from the other MegaCities in that it is both completely separate and inextricably intertwined with its mundane counterpart. Walk down the wrong alley at night in Johannesburg, and you may well find yourself stepping from its streets directly onto the blackened roots of the massive Spirit Tree, the ancient cinder of a baobab whose root structure defines the streets of Khumalo. The tree’s material trunk, though massive, rises little more than a handful of stories from the ground. Its spiritual counterpart towers high above the city, and its vast network of glowing spectral branches are the primary means of outdoor lighting in a city shrouded perpetually in twilight.
The city’s architecture is a strange mixture of monolithic and organic; living walls, barriers of ancient magic, and carved stone dance together in serpentine harmony.
Khumalo is one of the few places on Earth where nonhumans are allowed, even accepted; Because the Spirit Tree drinks deeply from a thousand other pages, the laws of Earth are muted, though for those citizens protected by its unusual tolerance, exiting the city is a very bad idea indeed, as its guardians have no interest in attracting the wrath of Earth’s lawmakers.
What passes for law in Khumalo is enforced by necromancers, both living and dead, called Keepers; rarely is a crime left unpunished, for these wardens can persuade even the most reluctant (or dead) victims to speak. For the most part, however, they seem to leave petty crime, arranged jobs, and runners alone. Slavery of the living or the dead, destruction of the soul or spirit, and abduction (especially involving smuggling nonhumans out of city lines) are all dealt with harshly, however – those skirting these most sacred laws of Khumalo are usually found mauled, their body torn apart and their spirit and soul nowhere to be found.
More mundane problems can be brought before the Eternal Court, a shadowy collection of figures who hold trial in the smoking ruins of the Spirit Tree’s trunk, at the boundary between the living and the dead. Each member of the Eternal Court wears a mask corresponding to their tribe’s original Loa, or god. Other than the mask, however, their forms change frequently, though whether by magic or simple replacement is unclear. The decision to bring a matter before the Court is not made lightly, however, for they are as likely to punish the petitioner as the accused.
Notable locations within Khumalo
not affiliated with a district:
The Alabaster Sanctum
Throne of Hapshepsut
The Eternal Court
The Fourteen Gates
The Halls of Evidence
The Library of Thoth
The Spirit Tree